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Medical News & Perspectives
April 25, 2012

US Reviews High-Risk Research Portfolio

JAMA. 2012;307(16):1682. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.509

After months of international debate about the merits of research involving potentially deadly pathogens, the Obama administration has announced that it will establish a regular process for reviewing high-risk research funded by US taxpayers.

The announcement of the new policy on March 29 (http://tinyurl.com/7la7l7y) followed months of debate over the merits of publishing the details of National Institutes of Health–funded research on potentially deadly strains of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. Under the new policy, US agencies that fund research will be required to conduct regular reviews of any studies in their portfolios that involve potentially harmful toxins or pathogens, including avian influenza virus, smallpox (variola) virus, botulinum neurotoxin, and Ebola virus. Agencies are asked to review the risks and benefits of each project and to implement risk-mitigation strategies when appropriate. Such strategies may include applying advanced biosecurity measures, evaluating potential medical interventions to counteract such agents, and withholding some information from publication.

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